4 Tips to Farm In the City When Land’s Too Pricey

So you can’t afford your farm dream quite yet. Don’t despair—there’s a lot of growing to do right where you are.

Original post by Nick Strauss at Urban Farm online.

4 Tips to Farm In the City When Land's Too Pricey (UrbanFarmOnline.com)

Do you sit at your office cubicle and dream of driving a tractor across acres of your own farmland? Even just a small tractor and an acre or two—enough to live self-sufficiently or work the farmers market scene? Do you then return home to an urban lot, squashed in between other urban lots, and despair that you’ll never escape, never save enough, never find the right plot of land? Do you count your savings and check real-estate listings, hoping that magical plot of land (affordable, ideally sited, just the right size) will come along sooner than later, allowing you to start living the grow-your-own dream instead of just imagining it? Don’t worry. Just because you can’t live your off-the-grid-self-sufficient-farmer fantasy life right now doesn’t mean you need to abandon the whole vision or put it on hold until you can take the plunge. Get started now, with what you’ve got, where you are. Consider it practice. Consider it testing the waters. Consider it making do with what you have. However you think of it, there’s no reason to hold off from starting your own farm/garden right now!

1. Get Creative With Your Space
4 Tips to Farm In the City When Land's Too Pricey (UrbanFarmOnline.com)

A productive garden doesn’t need to be a set of raised beds built of dimension lumber and set up in orthogonal rows. When looking at your space, consider all of the options and all of the spaces. An organically shaped hugelkultur bed may very well accommodate an odd or sloping piece of ground you’d thought unusable. And front yard gardens aren’t just for Portland anymore. While we all hear horror stories about fights with small-minded officialdom or recalcitrant neighbors, the reality is that far more folks happily grow edibles than end up in legal disputes. Talk to your neighbors, test the waters, and see how things will fly. It never hurts to open the “would you mind if I plant some edibles up front” conversation by bringing over a home-grown salad, a few eggs or other sample of what bounty your garden already produces. There’s also the option of “stealth edibles”—something like a blueberry bush or a fruit tree that’s visually appealing and easy to work into decorative landscaping without anyone being the wiser. There’s a great place for containers, as well. Many crops thrive in container gardens: Think potato towers, tomatoes and herbs. You can reclaim concrete patio space, the edge of a driveway and even an apartment balcony this way. We’ve put containers of peppers and tomatoes on our roof to take advantage of the sunlight—though I’d be careful with this. Make sure your roof can handle the weight and that you have easy and above all safe access.

2. Practice Season Extension

4 Tips to Farm In the City When Land's Too Pricey (UrbanFarmOnline.com)

If you can’t add space to your garden, why not add time? You don’t need to be a Harry Potter character to find more time in the gardening year. You just need to aggressively use season-extension techniques. Use cloches, cold frames or a compact greenhouse to start the growing season earlier and extend it later. If you set up an indoor seed-starting station with good artificial light and perhaps a heater mat, you’ll not only be able to start seeds earlier in the year but also be able to get seeds going while you wait for an outside crop to finish maturing and free up some space. (This is particularly helpful with fall crops.)

We like to call this whole package of ideas “Four-Dimensional Gardening,” planning our garden to take full advantage of the sowing, transplanting and harvesting cycles of all the different plants we want to grow. With overwintering crops, quick-maturing fall greens, inter-cropping and other techniques, you’ll be able to get two full crops out of most of your garden space every year.

3. Stick to High-Value Crops
4 Tips to Farm In the City When Land's Too Pricey (UrbanFarmOnline.com)

Ah, seed catalogs. They arrive every spring full of beautiful descriptions for hundreds of varieties, all seductively described and oh-so-tempting! The urge is to grow all of them, to sample a little of everything, the novel and the exotic. But the words the small-scale production gardener needs to look for are “productive,” “reliable” and “high yielding,” not “unique,” “new” and “exotic.” If your goal is to produce as much of your food of your own plot of land as possible, then focus on reliable, high-yielding crops and varieties. Identify characteristics that are key for your climate, and select those. Here in the Pacific Northwest, we choose many of our summer crops based on days-to-maturity—the quicker the better! Also, grow what you eat and what you’ve learned you grow well … and avoid the opposite. We’ve always had back luck with carrots for some reason, so we’ve stopped setting aside space for a crop that’s frustrating and disappointing. Trust me, even the most mundane, reliable, highly productive variety grown in your own yard and eaten fresh out of the soil is going to be light years better than anything you will find at the supermarket.

4. Be Part of a Team
4 Tips to Farm In the City When Land's Too Pricey (UrbanFarmOnline.com)

I’m lucky—I live on a block where one neighbor keeps bees and another grows brilliant carrots. We have ducks and chickens a plenty. A local brewery has more leftover grain than it can deal with, so we feed it to our flocks. This makes for a natural incorporation of swap economy into our life and is something you should consider, too. We give eggs and get carrots and grain. If you’re in town, keep an eye out for patches of vegetables, chicken coops and other signs of backyard productivity. Make friends and connections and swap what you do well for what other folks are offering. Don’t confuse the goal of growing more of your own with the need to live entirely off your own land and effort. Whether casual or organized, swapping with your friends, neighbors and fellow productive gardeners will bring variety and bounty to your life.

About the Author: Nick Strauss is an all-grain homebrewer with more than 13 years of experience. He and his wife own a small homestead in the Pacific Northwest and blog about home brewing, homesteading, cooking and more at Northwest Edible Life.


Foodie books – entertaining informing and reaffirming importance of food and agriculture

Brace yourselves, its a long one

Food Tank has selected 20 books that entertain, inform, and reaffirm the importance of food and agriculture. From sustainable seafood to ethical eating to field guides for food activists, these books highlight innovative and creative methods that are creating a better, more sustainable food system while educating and informing eaters and consumers.

The authors and editors on the list cover some of the most pressing issues around food justice and sustainable eating.

American Catch by Paul Greenberg

In 2005, five billion pounds of seafood were imported into the United States. Greenberg takes a deep look into the seafood hubs of the U.S. and attempts to explain why 91 percent of the seafood North Americans eat is, in fact, imported. Through analyzing current crises, oil spills, and mining projects, Greenberg present solutions for a more sustainable future.

EAT UP: The Inside Scoop on Rooftop Agriculture by Lauren Mandel

This book has compiled case studies, resource checklists, and interviews with experts in order to help readers transform their rooftops into a fully functioning green space and a way to feed their family. There are three sections covering rooftop gardens, rooftop farms, and the rooftop agriculture industry that cater to various scales, goals, and skill levels. If you have ever dreamed of transforming your roof into a green space, this is the expert guide for you.

Ethical Eating in the Postsocialist and Socialist World by Yuson Jung, Jakob Klein, Melissa Caldwell

Buzzwords like organic, free range, and local have gained popularity, and eaters are focusing more on how food is produced and cultivated. This book explores the concept of “ethical food” and how the movement started in postsocialist and socialist societies. More specifically, it covers food systems and consumption of food in Bulgaria, China, Lithuania, Russia, Vietnam, and Cuba.

Feeding Frenzy: Land Grabs, Price Spikes, and the World Food Crisis by Paul McMahon

McMahon traces global food trends throughout history to identify patterns that may have contributed to current turmoil in the global food market. In some countries, obesity is rising at alarming rates while food is scarce in others. McMahon outlines the patterns that exist in a “feeding frenzy” and presents actions to create a more sustainable food system.

Food Between the Country and the City by Nuno Domingos, José Manuel Sobral, and Harry G. West

This book analyzes how the concepts of country and city in relation to food have changed the dynamic of how food is produced and sustained. This book looks at food on all production scales using ethnographic studies of peasant homes, small family farms, urban gardens, community gardens, state food industries, and large corporate supermarket chains.

Food Consumption in Global Perspective: Essays in the Anthropology of Food in Honour of Jack Goody by Jakob Klein and Anne Murott

Honoring the 1982 work of Jack Goody and his book Cooking, Cuisine, and Class: A Study in Comparative Sociology, this book looks at the evolution of food in a global context. As food is becoming more homogenized across the world and more restaurants and corporations are becoming transnational, there is a dramatic shift in the food people consume. This book compares locally and culturally specific methods of cultivating and eating food with transnational processes.

Food for City Building: A Field Guide for Planners, Actionists, & Entrepreneurs by Wayne Roberts

After serving as the manager of the Toronto Food Policy Council for ten years, Wayne Roberts chronicled his experiences and interactions with local food experts in the Food for City Living guide. Roberts has helped improve public health and environmental awareness in his community, and now he shares his experiences with readers.

Green Chefs: The Culinary Creatives Changing How We Eat by Brooke Jonsson

This three-volume electronic book was compiled by chefs who are using innovative methods to integrate new and exciting local foods into their established cuisines. Jonsson pairs personal recipes with in-depth interviews with expert chefs. Readers can begin to understand the passion and intrigue behind the dishes they will soon create.

Green Kitchen Travels: Vegetarian Food Inspired by Our Adventures by David Frenkiel and Luise Vindahl

Frenkiel and Vindahl journeyed around the world with their daughter Elsa in search of delicious, nutritious vegetarian and vegan food. From hunting for vegetarian restaurants in Beijing to bean sprout pad thai for lunch in Thailand, this book is a compilation of their experiences with easy-to-find ingredients and simple recipes.

In Search of the Perfect Loaf: A Home Baker’s Odyssey by Samuel Fromartz

From Berlin to Kansas, Fromartz searches for the perfect loaf and shares his love for bread. He chronicles his experience in France working at a boulangerie, where he created a deeper understanding of bread from seed to table. During his travels he met with historians, farmers, sourdough biochemists, millers, and more. This book is a result of his journey and takes a deep look into the story of handmade bread.

The Big Pivot: Radically Practical Strategies for a Hotter, Scarcer, and More Open World by Andrew Winston

According to Winston, the way companies currently operate will not allow them to keep up with the current and future challenges of climate change, scarcity, and transparency. He suggests companies need to make “the big pivot.” Winston provides ten strategies for leaders and companies to be sustainable and successful for the future using stories from Unilever, Nike, Walmart, and other major companies.

The Carnivore’s Manifesto: Eating Well, Eating Responsibly, and Eating Meat by Patrick Martins with Mike Edison

It can be difficult for meat-eaters to find ethically produced meat. Factory farms and fast food restaurants offer quick meals, but at what cost? Patrick Martins, founder of Slow Food USA and Heritage Foods USA, has much to say about sifting through all the packaging nonsense and determining whether or not meat is sustainably produced. With this knowledge, Martins encourages readers to engage in more sustainable consumption.

The Handbook of Food Research by Anne Murcott, Warren Belasco, and Peter Jackson

This book is a collection of essays from sociologists, researchers, and academics discussing food psychology, politics, history, geography, and economics. It contains some of the most recent and groundbreaking research in food science. Experts investigate topics such as the way globalization affects the food supply, understanding famine, the social meaning of meals, and more.

The Market Gardener by Jean-Martin Fortier

Les Jardins de la Grelinette is a 1.5-acre farm in Quebec, Canada run by Jean-Martin and Maude-Helène Fortier. Through their low-tech, high-yield cultivation practices they provide produce to more than 200 families. This book focuses on their methods of growing better rather than growing bigger.

The Political Economy of Arab Food Sovereignty by Jane Harrigan

Harrigan researches the global food price spikes from 2007 to 2011 as a trigger to the Arab Spring Revolution in 2011. This book provides a political and economic analysis of the history of food security in the Arab world, including the geopolitics of food. Harrigan examines food sovereignty in the Arab world and how it has driven domestic food production as well as land acquisition overseas.

The Soil Will Save Us by Kristin Ohlson

This book focuses on soil, an often overlooked resource. According to Ohlson, 80 percent of the carbon in the world’s soil has been lost. This book argues that soil is “our great green hope” and that by reestablishing carbon-fixing microbes in the soil, the Earth has a chance at reversing some of the effects of global warming.

To Eat with Grace, a selection of essays and poems from Orion Magazine

Orion Magazine has selected past articles and poetry that best exemplifiy what eating with grace truly means—staying connected with fellow humans. Personal relationships and connections can sustain eaters just as much as the food one eats. To Eat with Grace shows how there are many different ways food can nourish the body.

Waste Matters edited by David Evans, Hugh Campbell, and Anne Murcott

An alarming 1.3 billion tons of food is wasted globally each year. The authors of this book look at waste through sociological, economic, and cultural lenses in order to give the reader a full understanding of the current waste problem. The book explores issues such as social practices, the way food and waste are circulated in society, and dumpster diving. It highlights various initiatives and programs that aim to decrease the presence of food waste globally.

What a Plant Knows: A Field Guide to the Senses by Dr. Danny Chamovitz

People do not often consider plants as having “awareness” of the environment around them, but Dr. Danny Chamovitz, a biologist, would disagree wholeheartedly. By analyzing plant biology and diversity, Dr. Chamovitz is able to ascertain parallels between humans and plant species. He concludes humans may be more similar than the reader would think.

Why We Eat, How We Eat: Contemporary Encounters Between Foods and Bodies edited by Emma-Jayne Abbots and Anna Lavis

This book explores the intersection between food and body. Why We Eat, How We Eat recognizes eating as a tool for building relationships, silencing hunger, and more. This multi-disciplinary approach to how people eat may illuminate new ideas and perspectives that readers have ignored in the past.

FOOD TANK’s Summer 2014 Reading List

Food Tank has hand-picked 18 books that educate, inspire, and inform us—and make us look forward to cooking, eating, and sharing what we’ve learned. They highlight sustainable agriculture and farming practices around the world, and they give us ideas about how to eat healthier, safer, and more fairly produced food.

From Ava Chin’s Eating Wildlya journey into urban foraging, to The Arcadia Mobile Market Seasonal Cookbook, which incorporates inexpensive staple foods with locally-grown and seasonal produce to create healthy and nutritious meals, they are all interesting, intriguing, and definitely worth a read this summer.

These books and reports teach us where our food comes from, how farming can both influence and mitigate climate change, and what we need to do to change our eating habits so that we can have can have a hand in alleviating hunger, obesity, and poverty in our communities and across the globe.

Here are Food Tank’s 18 summer “must reads” for your tablet or bookshelf.

Agri-Culture: Reconnecting People, Land and Nature by Jules Pretty

This book takes an in-depth look at the issues enveloped in the agriculture and food systems. Pretty emphasizes changing behaviors and reforming policies in order for an agricultural revolution to take place. He draws on stories of successful agricultural transformation in both developing and industrialized countries, calling on the next agricultural revolution.

Cooperative Farming: Frameworks for Farming Together by Faith Gilbert

Gilbert designed this 54-page guidebook through interviews with 42 start-up and established collaborative farm projects across North America. She gathered input from 18 professionals and advisors as well as 50 publications in cooperative development, farm business, finance, land access, and more. This book highlights processes that make collaborations effective and functional in order to provide mutual satisfaction and benefits.

Don’t Cook the Planet: Deliciously Saving the Planet One Meal at a Time by Emily Abrams

An 18-year-old activist from Massachusetts, Abrams’ new cookbook features 70 recipes shared by celebrity and all-star chefs, including actor, producer, and eco-activist Chevy Chase; MasterChef judge and acclaimed chef Graham Elliot; and Stephanie Izard, Top Chef star and executive chef at Girl & the Goat. This cookbook offers recipes and tips on how to minimize your carbon footprint. Abrams hope to impact her generation through this cookbook by featuring positive food choices.

Eating Wildly by Ava Chin

Follow Chin in this touching and informative memoir as she forages for food in New York City. Chin is an “urban forager” on the quest for eating better, healthier, and more sustainably, regardless of location. She takes the reader on an emotional journey—finding solace in parks and backyards, where she connects with rare and delicious edible plants. Her experiences in nature enliven taste buds and stir emotions.

Fields of Hope and Power by Frances Moore Lappé and Anna Lappé

“Fields of Hope and Power” is a chapter from the upcoming Navdanya book on agroecological movements, living democracy, and the limits of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and industrial agriculture. This chapter takes an in-depth look at food scarcity and how agriculture and climate affect this issue. The Lappés investigate how the farmers at Navdanya have contributed to setting up the largest direct marketing fair trade organic network in India.

Food Systems Failure: The Global Food Crisis and the Future of Agriculture by Christopher Rosin, Paul Stock, and Hugh Campbell

The authors provide a critical assessment of the global food system during the heightened food crisis and the problem of feeding a growing population. This book explores contraindications in policy and practice that hinder solutions to the food crisis. Case studies expose neoliberal policies involved with the production end of the food system, which provides insight into the current challenges for feeding the world. Rosin, Stock, and Campbell provide alternative strategies to create a more just and moral food system.

Foods for Health: Choose and Use the Very Best Foods for Your Family and Our Planet by Barton Seaver and P.K Newby

Seaver and Newby have created a science-based guide to healthy eating for the whole family, which features tips, food pairings, and sample menus. The authors take the reader on a culinary tour of 148 foods that have high nutritional value and the least environmental impact. This book teaches readers how to prepare healthy food and meals while making the best choices for their body and the planet.

Full Planet, Empty Plates: The New Geopolitics of Food Scarcity by Lester R. Brown

Brown exposes the planet’s volatile food system with eroding soils, rising temperatures, and countries competing for land and water resources. He writes, “Food is the new oil.” Political uprise and food scarcity are concerning issues, which Brown addresses and for which he presents solutions.

Grabbing Power: The New Struggles for Land, Food and Democracy in Northern Honduras by Tanya M. Kerssen

This book explores the history of agribusiness and land conflicts in Northern Honduras. In the Aguan Valley, Honduran peasants battle large palm oil producers and fight for democratization of land, food, and political power. Kerssen shows how peasants in crime- and drug-laden communities are leading a strong and inspiring movement, with no signs of backing down.

In the Garden: A Botanically Illustrated Gardening Book by Sandra Lynn McPeake

Great for the coffee or kitchen table, this book includes basic growing information and detailed images of vegetable growth cycles from seedlings to the inside of veggies. McPeake provides gardening tips about supplies that growers will need and how to keep a gardening journal. Learn to share and grow with this illustrated guide.

Local: The New Face of Food and Farming in America by Douglas Gayeton

A guide to more than 200 agriculture terms explained by experts in the field and complemented by stunning visuals, this book explores rebuilding local food movements. Gayeton traveled the United States, taking photos and learning from today’s top sustainability practitioners, to create this reference book.

Savor: Mindful Eating, Mindful Life by Thich Nhat Hanh and Lilian Cheung

This book will make you stop and think about your eating habits and patterns. Buddhist monk Hanh and nutritional expert Dr. Cheung discuss how to become more aware and mindful of our bodies, drawing special attention to how we eat. This book explores the physical, emotional, psychological, and environmental factors which control our weight.

Sustainable Diets and Biodiversity by Barbara Burlingame and Sandro Dernini

This publication, by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), investigates the link between sustainable diets and biodiversity. It addresses the relationships among agriculture, health, environment, and food industries—indicating that the most sustainable diets have low environmental impacts. This text can be used as a reference for policy, research, and action.

Sustainable Revolution: Permaculture in Ecovillages, Urban Farms, and Communities Worldwide by Juliana Birnbaum and Louis Fox

This book is a collection of profiles, interviews, and essays that feature 60 innovative community-based projects around the globe in diverse climates. Birnbaum and Fox visited communities all around the world looking for ecological design systems. From urban gardeners to native seed-saving collectives to ecovillage developments, the common thread that weaves these thriving communities together is permaculture systems.

The Arcadia Mobile Market Seasonal Cookbook by JuJu Harris

This cookbook incorporates Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) staples along with seasonal produce to create easy and delicious recipes. Harris, Arcadia Culinary Educator and Mobile Market Outreach Coordinator, wanted to create healthy and nutritious recipes around WIC provisions. What started out as a simple compilation of recipes has turned into a successful business venture. Harris plans to offer a Spanish version later this year.

The Ecological Hoofprint: The Global Burden of Industrial Livestock by Tony Weis

Weis discusses the “meatification” of human diets and the adverse impact it has on the earth and human health. Weis believes the conversion of grain and oilseed into meat is inefficient in a world striving to provide a basic diet to those chronically hungry. He explains why the growth and industrialization of livestock production is a central part of industrial capitalist agriculture.

The Third Plate: Field Notes on the Future of Food by Dan Barber Coming Soon!

This book explores Barber’s vision for a new future of American eating. After a decade of research on farming communities throughout the world, Barber concludes America’s food needs a radical transformation to ensure the future of our health, food, and land. From his restaurant’s kitchen to farmers’ fields, Barber’s experiences led him to propose a “third plate”—a new pattern of eating rooted in cooking with and celebrating the whole farm.

We the Eaters by Ellen Gustafson Coming Soon!

Gustafson explores how eaters and consumers can transform the global food system by changing what is on their dinner plates. The book investigates the global industrial food system using the classic American dinner as a template and provides actionable solutions to start ripple effects of change. The book’s manifesto is: If we change dinner, we change the world.